Monday, March 7, 2011

Drakensberg Rock Art

One of the reasons that the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the fact that it has the biggest concentration of rock paintings in Africa south of the Sahara.  These rock paintings were left behind by the San people and shows off their way of life and believes.  There are a number of rock art sites in the Royal Natal National Park with one of them only accessible on a walking tour with a local guide.

The walk is about a kilometer in distance and takes you into the hills to a sheltered rock overhang.  The is only the second time that I have had the opportunity to see rock art in its original environment.  The other time was at a site near Alicedale in the Eastern Cape.  Looking at the photo above you can see some of the rock art about a meter or so above the guide's head.

This is just a closer look at the rock art seen in the previous picture

Our guide, Mduduzi Shabalala, is very knowledgeable in his subject.  We asked him what the grooves in the rocks were and he demonstrated to us how the San people would have inserted sticks into those grooves to rest their elbows on while painting.  In addition to all the rock are information Mdu also told us about the Zulu people, the villages in the area as well as the flora of the Berg.

This painting shows a San figure running

 This is an Eland with, if I remember right cause I could be wrong, a baby eland underneath it

 Eland featured quite prominently in most of the rock art sights all over Southern Africa which shows that they were quite common in those days and played an important part in the lives of the San.  An interesting addition in this picture is the cobra beneath the eland.

I got extra excited when Mdu pointed out a couple of fossils next to the rock paintings.  I have a particular interest in fossils and even wanted to be an archaeologist at one stage in my life.  I have a small collection of fossils and other pieces and the Indiana Jones in me would love to be able to add to it, although I would never damage a site like this to get my hands on more.  The problem is that some people would and that is why these kinds of sites has to be protected and preserved. 


  1. That explanation of the elbow rest for the artist, is fascinating.

  2. This is really nice rock art, so colorful and almost dimensional. I didn't get to see any rock art in the Bergs, yet I knew it was there. Love the stick idea. Now I'll have to look for something like that at our SW rockart sites. Plus fossils too. I have a small collection.

    And yes, I bought a few rocks at the rock shop yesterday. It's rough stuff but a friend can polish it for me.

  3. and I thought SA only had the Cango Caves. Very informative blog Jonker.


  4. Great photos, there are some excellent rock drawings around in S. Africa. Diane